Asaph is another writer of psalms. David has just related the history of Israel to his people and they will go on to ignore all of his warnings. Asaph comes upon the destruction of Israel and this is his lament. All the nations of today’s world have heard these histories and the warnings they present. Are we prepared to witness this scene?
(A Psalm of Asaph.) O God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance; thy holy temple have they defiled; they have laid Jerusalem on heaps. The dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be meat unto the fowls of the heaven, the flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the earth. Their blood have they shed like water round about Jerusalem; and there was none to bury them. We are become a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and derision to them that are round about us. How long, LORD? wilt thou be angry for ever? shall thy jealousy burn like fire? Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen that have not known thee, and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon thy name. Psalm 79:1-6
Asaph reports to God; the enemies of God have invaded his temple. The temple and the city are defiled and the army of Israel is feeding the buzzards as the bodies are in heaps. Too many bodies to bury have left Jerusalem a subject of scorn and derision. Asaph despairs and wonders how long God will be turned away from Israel. He asks God to redirect his wrath against his enemies instead of his own in Jerusalem.
For they have devoured Jacob, and laid waste his dwelling place. O remember not against us former iniquities: let thy tender mercies speedily prevent us: for we are brought very low. Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name: and deliver us, and purge away our sins, for thy name’s sake. Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is their God? let him be known among the heathen in our sight by the revenging of the blood of thy servants which is shed. Let the sighing of the prisoner come before thee; according to the greatness of thy power preserve thou those that are appointed to die; And render unto our neighbours sevenfold into their bosom their reproach, wherewith they have reproached thee, O Lord. So we thy people and sheep of thy pasture will give thee thanks for ever: we will shew forth thy praise to all generations. Psalm 79:7-13
Asaph reports the destruction of Israel and their home. He asks God to forgive their sins and to again show them mercy. From their low place Asaph asks God to remove their sins and save them if only to reaffirm his own good name. He asks God why the heathen should disbelieve the God if Israel. He challenges God to avenge the deaths of the soldiers of Israel by destroying their enemies now. Asaph asks God to remember the prisoners of war, and to save those sentenced to death. He promises that Israel will always praise God if he adds seven times the misery of Israel to those who produced that misery.
(To the chief Musician upon Shoshannimeduth, A Psalm of Asaph.)
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth. Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh stir up thy strength, and come and save us. Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved. O LORD God of hosts, how long wilt thou be angry against the prayer of thy people? Thou feedest them with the bread of tears; and givest them tears to drink in great measure. Psalm 80: 1-5
Asaph is aware of the trouble of Israel, and he is also aware of the hope of Israel. He turns to the God of Israel for help. The children of Abraham have been defeated and Asaph longs for the comfort of their God.
Thou makest us a strife unto our neighbours: and our enemies laugh among themselves. Turn us again, O God of hosts, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved. Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it. Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars. Psalm 80:6-10
Israel is weak against neighbors and they are held in derision by all. As God led them out of Egypt he can again deliver them. God had made them as a vine that grows and prospers in the earth.
She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river. Why hast thou then broken down her hedges, so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her? The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it. Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts: look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine; And the vineyard which thy right hand hath planted, and the branch that thou madest strong for thyself. Psalm 80:11-15
When the vine of Israel had grown rich God had removed the protection that preserved the fruit of her vines. Without the hedge the vines were vulnerable to the wild animals. As God made the vine Asaph is inviting him to visit the vine of Israel again.
It is burned with fire, it is cut down: they perish at the rebuke of thy countenance. Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself. So will not we go back from thee: quicken us, and we will call upon thy name. Turn us again, O LORD God of hosts, cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved. Psalm 80:16-19
This vine of Israel is destroyed as if by fire, which is from the rebuke of God. Is Asaph asking God to raise up a right hand man, a son of man who God made for himself? Is this another call for Messiah as we heard in David’s psalms? He is asking God to help the people to stay close to God as they call on his name. Asaph is confident that asking God for his salvation is their key to life. Like David, I believe that Asaph heard some revelation from God about their future king and hope as he turned to worship and honoring God.